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Playing the system: see the board game helping students prepare for the world of work

Norwich University of the Arts students playing the Profile card game, designed by the university to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Jeanette Bolton-Martin

Norwich University of the Arts students playing the Profile card game, designed by the university to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Jeanette Bolton-Martin

Jeanette Bolton-Martin

Negotiating the job market for the first time can be a daunting process, with a multitude of oddly named roles and jargon filled descriptions.

Sarah Steed, director of innovation and engagement, and Dr Sebastian Owen, employability adviser, from Norwich University of the Arts with their Guardian University Award for Profile, a game being used to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Neil DidsburySarah Steed, director of innovation and engagement, and Dr Sebastian Owen, employability adviser, from Norwich University of the Arts with their Guardian University Award for Profile, a game being used to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Neil Didsbury

But the Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) is helping its students to decode this next life step through a more familiar medium: a board game.

Profile helps students to build confidence in 10 key employability skills, decided on through discussions with employers, and think about the logistics of a future career - for example the desire to travel or to working independently.

The game comes in three formats: a card game, board game and digital platform where students can record and track evidence of their progress.

EDP education correspondent, Bethany Whymark learns the careers-based board game from Dr Sebastian Owen from Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Neil DidsburyEDP education correspondent, Bethany Whymark learns the careers-based board game from Dr Sebastian Owen from Norwich University of the Arts. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Two years in the making, it is now a key tenet of the university's employability service, with students using it from the start of their course through to and beyond graduation (although the first cohort of students to play it have not yet completed their courses).

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It has proved a hit with the industry, securing a Guardian University Award, but also with the students. Before Profile was introduced only 30pc of NUA's students engaged with the employability service; that figure is now more than 80pc.

Profile, a game designed by Norwich University of the Arts, challenges players to match real-world workplace issues to the skills and character attributes needed to resolve them. Picture: Neil DidsburyProfile, a game designed by Norwich University of the Arts, challenges players to match real-world workplace issues to the skills and character attributes needed to resolve them. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Sarah Steed, director of innovation and engagement at NUA, said: "Our students are very creative explorers and we felt we needed a creative approach.

"Profile puts you in a mind space for playing a game and opens up behaviour and interactions that would otherwise be really difficult. This process seems to free people up to have those conversations.

"We're now seeing indications that it really works."

Norwich University of the Arts students playing the Profile card game, designed by the university to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Jeanette Bolton-MartinNorwich University of the Arts students playing the Profile card game, designed by the university to help improve students' employability skills. Picture: Jeanette Bolton-Martin

Mrs Steed said the focus of the game on transferable skills rather than set job roles or careers was better suited to today's fluid job market, particularly in the creative industries.

"As a person if you build yourself as a moving and changing collection of skills, it makes you more flexible," she said.

Dr Sebastian Owen, employability adviser at NUA, who helped develop the game, said: "We want to make sure students understand what employers are looking for, but because we are a specialist university employers sometimes don't understand what they would get from our students and Profile has helped them to understand what they can offer."

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